January 2022

The following is a possible framework for the Witnessing of the Word. It can be personalised or altered: its purpose is to serve as an example of how this Saying might be used primarily in the context of a Prayer Group, but it may be used by individuals too. It is not intended to be definitive.  In the context of a group: the periods of silence should be appropriate for your group - probably not less than 5 minutes, or more than 15 minutes.

Saying for the month: “I will manifest my glory among you, in the sight of the nations” Ezekiel 20:41 (NIV).

In your time of contemplation, you may like to shorten this toMy glory among you”.  To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still; you may want to relax your way through your muscles or you may find it helpful to become aware of the sounds around you and then put them aside as you offer this time of prayer to God.  Say this introductory invitation to prayer, then keep a further minute or two of silence: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11.28).

Introduction to the first silence - a preparation for listening with the mind: “I will manifest my glory among you, in the sight of the nations”

We take this Saying into our minds, allowing the saying to speak to us: “I will manifest my glory among you, in the sight of the nations”

As we take this saying into our minds and let it speak to us, we might perhaps consider the context a little more broadly. There is much going on in Ezekiel’s intense prophetic book with its many vivid visionary illustrations. There is though a clear, key theme that ties into our saying - showing reverence for the name and glory of God. Early in Ezekiel, as Ezekiel is commissioned to the difficult task of being God’s spokesperson to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, we find that Ezekiel is shown a vision of the glory of God. Whilst we may find the imagery of chapter 1 startling or not especially accessible for us in our current culture, we might still be able to take away some aspects of the vision. For example, that God is not restricted or contained; rather he is real and present with his people and so very gloriously so, kingly glory pours from this throne.

For Ezekiel it is a difficult time, both personally and nationally. Just one chapter after our saying we read that there is sudden, catastrophic suffering for Ezekiel personally; his wife dies when Ezekiel is only 35. There’s also personal and national despair. Ezekiel might have expected his priesthood apprenticeship to be at the feet of learned Levites at the temple in Jerusalem. Instead, he has been taken by force into exile – his whole life seems to have been turned upside down and destroyed. The kingdom of Judah is also suffering hugely and grieving many losses in this exile. From a position of promise, settled in their Promised Land with God dwelling in his holy city of Jerusalem, they are now in devastating circumstances. Jerusalem is in enemy control and the precious temple treasures have been stolen. I wonder, as we look at our own circumstances, whether we feel some of the same despair and losses that Ezekiel and the Jewish people were facing? Ours may perhaps be a little less devastating though so many months of COVID-19 has brought great upheaval to our lives, in many different ways.

The message to Ezekiel, as he encountered God’s glory, may still be current for us. In the dark days of exile and such discouraging circumstances Ezekiel powerfully encounters God in his heavenly throne room. He is still enthroned and working out his divine purposes in the world. He is the sovereign Lord, of Judah, Israel, all the nations of the world.

God’s glory is manifested in our material world, he is with us; His glory breaks through. The word glory derives from a Hebrew word that has a root idea of weight or heaviness. When applied to humans this weighty worthiness might describe their wealth, splendour and reputation. Applied to God, it may be more about showing God’s being and his nature and presence with people. At times this is accompanied by physical phenomena. In the throne room Ezekiel encounters God’s glory, describing it as ‘brightness everywhere, like a rainbow springing out of the sky on a rainy day’ (Ezekiel 1:28 MSG). Elsewhere in the Old Testament God’s glory settles as a cloud on Mount Sinai and this radiant, divine glory transfigures Moses’ face. God’s presence and glory is also seen as a pillar of cloud or a pillar of fire – present both day and night.

As we apply our minds and allow this word to speak to us perhaps we might focus on God’s glory?

“I will manifest my glory among you, in the sight of the nations”

A time is now kept for silence of the mind – perhaps between 5 and 15 minutes.  The silence concludes with a short thanksgiving, and/or feel free to repeat the Saying.  The first silence ends with the words: Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word.

Introduction to the second silence - a preparation for listening with the heart: “I will manifest my glory among you, in the sight of the nations”

As we take our saying into our hearts and allow it to speak in us, affecting our emotions and working more deeply within us it might be appropriate to ask ourselves whether at times we may have taken God’s presence and glory for granted? In Ezekiel we find that God’s people and even his temple had been infected with idols. Earlier in Ezekiel we see God’s glory departing his temple. How appalling that Israel’s idolatry leads to God abandoning his sanctuary (chapter 10). Perhaps we also need to check our hearts? Are there any surface idols that abundant advertising presses on us loitering there (cars, watches, houses, luxury goods)? What about the deeper idols that we may hope these surface idols will bring such as comfort, security, power, others’ respect?

Alongside our saying in chapter 20 there are many promises of restoration. God’s people are brought into the wilderness for a time of dealing with impurities and rebellious hearts. They are then enfolded and restored to their covenant relationship with their Lord and all the blessings that brings.

Yes, God ‘will demonstrate in the eyes of the world that I am The Holy’ (v20, MSG). Is it perhaps a little more challenging in Goldinghay’s translation that God says that ‘I shall make myself sacred through you in the eyes of the peoples’ (v20, Bible for Everyone)?

Perhaps for us, as New Testament people, it is wonderful and amazing that God’s glory has been manifest because the Word becomes flesh and pitches his tent among us in the person and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. The glory of God in Christ is then manifested in Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.  Further, might we play our part, as the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ may still be seen and reflected in the church? Is God’s glory manifest in the new covenant?

The good news in Ezekiel is that whilst God’s glory departs the temple, we find there is the promise that God’s glory will return. At the end of Ezekiel, as also in Revelation, we find that God’s glory descends and stays with his people on earth. The bright Glory of God fills the Temple (Ezekiel 43:4). There is a New Heaven on the New Earth and God moves permanently ‘into the neighbourhood, making his home with men and women’ (Rev 21:4, MSG). It seems that there is something more glorious still to come; a future hope when tears, crying, pain, death are gone as God establishes his throne and glory on the New Earth.

There may be much to ponder as we take this word into our hearts.

“I will manifest my glory among you, in the sight of the nations”

Now we take this word into our hearts, as we allow Jesus’ words to speak in us, to let it touch us and let it work more deeply upon our lives.

 A time is now kept for silence of the heart – perhaps between 5 and 15 minutes.  The second silence ends with the words: Father, we thank you that your Word is alive and within us.

Introduction to the time of intercession – taking God’s word outwards into the world. 

“I will manifest my glory among you, in the sight of the nations”

It is not long since we remembered the angelic throng announcing Jesus’ birth and singing, ‘Glory to God in the highest and Peace to his people on earth.’ It may be that in our prayers, as we allow God’s word to be spoken through us that there are many people and issues across the world where we would wish God’s presence and his glory to be manifested and that there may be healing and wholeness too.

Say the name of a person or a group of people or an issue, and after a short pause, repeat the saying.  For example:

‘Alison and your family ... “I will manifest my glory among you, in the sight of the nations”

As we allow the word to speak through us we might direct Jesus’ word towards those people and situations where there is suffering, hurt and an absence of joy and where abiding in Christ would bring comfort.

Conclude this time of intercession with words of thanksgiving: Father, we thank you that your Word has gone out through us to those for whom we pray.

The Conclusion

Feel free to use the Fellowship Prayer (below) or another closing prayer to conclude your time of contemplative prayer:

Loving Heavenly Father, we thank you for all your unsearchable riches which pour forth from you as light from the sun, in boundless profusion and generosity, whether received, ignored or rejected. And now we offer to you, in so far as we are able, as an emptiness to be filled with your divine fullness, ourselves, our souls and bodies; all that we are, all that we have and all that we do. Amen

You may wish to say the Grace together before departing.